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Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Perils of Blogging (or, Ratting Out A Kindred Spirit)

I’m involved in a hiring committee evaluating candidates for a new position at my office. I’m the youngest member of the committee, but still significantly older than many applicants. There was one that looked particularly promising and for whom we had received positive recommendations. She was scraping by to get the requisite minimum job experience, but looked great academically and generally on paper. She showed a great deal of interest, frequently e-mailing the woman who is in charge of the recruiting.

Being a bright and accomplished student who suffered through a difficult start to a professional career myself, and also being someone who doesn’t fit the traditional mindset of an upwardly mobile young professional, I have a soft spot for these type of candidates. Whether they lack the family connections, the personal appearance or the exuberant self-promoting persona of a car salesman, sometimes there are gifted and capable applicants that just don’t get snapped up and seem to struggle to land that first job where they can then display their abilities.

A couple of us on the search committee had targeted this woman early on as a potential hire. When we were narrowing things down, trying to put together a list of those candidates we wanted to interview, I started doing Internet searches on some of the prospective candidates. Most of them kicked up little other than what you’d usually expect. A mention on a committee of a professional association, an entry as a child or grandchild in an obituary of a family member, maybe a reference in a published item somewhere or a listing related to some non-profit activity. When I searched this particular woman’s name, I kept getting weird references on music related sites. I tried both Yahoo and Google and got the same type of results on each. So I started exploring the links. It was some kind of on-line music forum/make-your-own-radio-station kind of website. I found her name in there. We actually share some of the same musical interests, at least when I’m in a bad mood. Whatever it may be, I think everybody has some kind of music that they turn on when they’re really feeling sour. It may be Patsy Cline. It may be Nine Inch Nails. This girl listened to that kind of stuff all the time.

Well. That’s okay. I tend to be a bit melancholy myself. That if anything made me more sympathetic toward this applicant. Then I found a link to her blog from one of these sites.
Blog isn’t the right world. More like on-line cocoon. In comparison, this blog is a stick-figure drawing and hers is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Not in terms of content mind you, but in terms of complexity. I try to steal an hour or so here and there to post a few entries a month and don’t worry about format. Hers is packed full of custom-created icons, images, avatars, streaming news, links and members. It’s hard for me to remember how to edit the links on my homepage. Half the time, I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at on hers. You could tell, she’d been living there.

Well, that’s okay too. A generational difference perhaps. She was in high school when the Internet explosion began. I was already out in the work world. She had years in college and grad school to get acclimated to all this technology. With the onset of parenting, I’ve fallen behind the curve. We only got a DVD player a year or so ago. All in all, this left me with the impression that our generation gaps are dramatically wider than they used to be. I am 11 years younger than the woman heading up the search committee, 11 years older than this applicant. My co-worker seems like a big sister. This chick seems like an alien.

And then we get to the content of the blog. Yikes. She’s pissed at the world. And not occasionally, but apparently 24/7. The blog was chock full of sniping and griping (actually, she calls it "snarking") about the current temporary job she has, her co-workers, her neighbors, people who interrupted her at a restaurant, her mom, ex-bosses, anyone and everyone. It was elitist, boorish, petty and just plain nasty. It’s pretty telling. She lets it all hang out. This isn’t a collection of thoughtful literary snippets of a slightly-disgruntled young women waiting to be discovered as Generation Y’s Emily Dickinson. It’s closer in content to the kind of nasty little notes a middle school science teacher confiscates from the girls in the back row of his class.

And... much of the content is posted during work hours from office computers. Not wanting to be the hypocrite, I’ll certainly confess to personal use of the Internet during work hours. I’d be actually more worried about someone who can honestly claim they never checked a sports score or browsed between the hours of 9-5. But this girl was living on line during work hours and spending much of that existence slamming co-workers and complaining about her job.
I had to pass this info along to the search committee. Well, actually, I passed it on to the next youngest (and likely to be more understanding member) and she passed it on from there. Those of us interested in this applicant tried to talk ourselves into still liking her. We argued that maybe this is just how she vents. Maybe this is just her dark side. But ultimately, we had to pass. This girl’s dark side may not be any darker than some of the rest of us, but hers was a google search and one hyperlink away from 6 billion people. She had no discretion, apparently little respect for other people, not much respect for her job, and a heckuva bad attitude.

I was (and am) tempted to e-mail and let her know how she’s hurting herself (professionally). She could at least limit access or use a pseudonym or something. But there are deeper issues than that going on here and it doesn’t seem right to flip the lid off that pandora’s box, then walk away. And to be honest, I felt more than a little like a peeping Tom reading through her on-line journal and dissecting her soul.

You tell me. If you take a second look at an exhibitionist, can you be called a voyeur?


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